Internet Usage Requires Precautions

Personal computer (PC)-based storage terminal management has become essential for today's business environment, but certain precautions are necessary for the systems to be successful, particularly when Internet use is factored in, said James Barnhill, principal partner at Toptech Systems Inc, Longwood, Florida.

Barnhill spoke at the Independent Liquid Terminals Association annual conference June 14-17 in Houston, Texas.

Use of the Internet by businesses has exploded in a very short time, bringing with it both positive and negative impacts. "All workers today are accustomed to PCs, and they all know how to use the web," he said. Despite that, there are major logistical concerns for both internal and external web access users.

External users may be so numerous that immediate access to a company's web site address may be impossible or delayed. "Computers get busy and bottlenecks occur," he said. "You can't have that happen at your terminal."

One way to detour around the bottlenecks is to set up remote dial-up access, an arrangement that is easy to secure and requires only a few phone lines to use. "And," he added, "those who are accessing must have your telephone number."

Barnhill recommended companies restrict software and login access. "Search engines are designed to tell where you are," he said. "If you're out there, they are going to find you. You've got to protect your system."

A firewall limits access from the Internet. "It's good, but it's not hacker proof," he said.

"So, the thing to do is to minimize your exposure." At the same time, he pointed out, the job of the web site is to give out information to the people the company serves.

There are numerous other avenues that must be addressed for web site use to be efficient. Many managers must learn the computer language. Or more likely, the new Internet assignments may interfere with their already overloaded job responsibilities. Managers may find themselves involved with such plans as installing a web server, establishing a data warehouse, or other initiatives required for the fast-growing technology in the workplace.

Barnhill recommended outsourcing to solve the dilemmas. However, hiring another company to handle electronic management requires careful selection. "It gets very challenging to maintain all the systems that are necessary," he said. "It also requires around-the-clock support and a company that knows your industry."

Once a system is properly installed and maintained, the benefits begin. Most importantly, the company will be set to interact with customers and other businesses as the Internet use continues to develop.

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